This is something very important to me, and when I discovered it maybe about six to nine months ago my life made a definite turn for the better. I had long struggled with a failure to identify with other people, notably because they didn’t make sense to me. When I read a friend’s biology assignment on this though, it was if a blindfold had been torn from my eyes. It explained almost of all my questions about how people worked, they actually made sense to me now, and I could thus relate to them better. I no longer thought I was the result of some genetic oddity that natural selection would remove from humanity, I no longer hated humanity in general, and I could now actually have a conversation. Even better, I understood why I had felt this way.
I decided to talk about it here, not only because it interests me, but also in case anyone else wanted some answers like I did.
What is the MBTI?
The Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator (MBTI) is a method of classifying people in one of 16 different personality categories. Personality types are not new, the ancient Greek Philosophers, including Aristotle, played with the idea. However, the modern father of this branch of psychology is probably Carl Jung. Jung rejected the idea of his mentor, Freud, that people’s personalities are the result of past experiences and theorized instead that we are born with certain characteristics that make us who we are. His ideas were developed by the Myers-Briggs mother-daughter team into the system we have today, and were further expanded by David Kiersey.
The MBTI works like this: There are four distinguishing features to each person’s personality: the world they prefer to interact with (internal or external), the way they gather information (either through mind or senses), the way they make decisions (either with their head or heart) and their preferred state of being during decision making (being decisive or leaving options open). Every person has a preference for one or the other option for each category, which can be summarized as a single letter. The person’s overall code is then composed of their four letters.
Introversion (I) vs Extraversion (E)
Firstly comes the preference between interacting with the internal or the external world. Introverts gain energy from interacting with their internal world and thus need quiet time on a fairly regular basis to recharge while extraverts gain energy from the external world and thus need stimulation, often in the form of contact with other people, to keep happy. Extraverts are slightly more common than Introverts, making up 50 to 60 percent of the population.
Introverts can see Extraverts as being noisy, pushy, over-active, shallow, thoughtless, or rash while Extraverts can see Introverts as being antisocial, proud or boring.
Intuition (N) vs Sensing (S)
Secondly comes the person’s mode of information gathering. Intuitives like to work out how things will work using their minds, and are comfortable with less clearly defined boundreis and more abstract topics, while Sensors use their senses to gather information and are thus more down-to-earth and detail oriented. It is often said that Intuitives see the forest, sensors see the trees. Intuitives’ thought patterns involve making connections: they think of something, it reminds them of something else, and so on. Intuitives’ memories are best at drawing connections, Sensor’s are best at recalling details. The difference between Sensors and Intuitives is formidable; people with different N/S preferences often have trouble understanding each other. Sensors outnumber Intuitives considerably: making up between 65 and 85 percent of the population.
Intuitives often see Sensors as being shallow, unimaginative, too tied to details and uninteresting while Sensors will often see Intuitives as being impractical, incomprehensible, and with their heads in the clouds.
Thinking (T) vs Feeling (F)
The third preference is for decision making, either emotionally or rationally driven. Feelers base decisions on feelings, Thinkers on thought. Statistics suggest that 75% of men and 25% of women are thinkers, although this gender disparity is likely to be influenced by social norms.
Thinkers can often see feelers as being overly sensitive and emotional, irrational and foolish while Feelers can see Thinkers as being cold, impersonal, unsympathetic and unkind.
Judging (J) vs Perceiving (P)
The fourth preference is possibly the hardest to identify, and relates to people’s general outlook on life. Judgers seek closure while Perceivers seek to have options opened. This usually manifests itself in decision making: Judgers are happiest when the decision is made and are thus often more decisive and more likely to follow routine while Perceivers are happiest when the options are still open and are thus likely to be more prone to seek variety and put of decisions. Many Perceivers see this as a flaw and seek to correct themselves, often by seriously overcompensating on planning and routine-setting. However, Perceivers have a great asset in their flexibility. 60% of the population is made up of Judgers.
Judgers will often see Perceivers as being uncommitted, indecisive or lazy and Perceivers will often perceive Judgers as being inflexible, too quick to make decisions and pushy.
Put it together…
With all preferences identified, a four letter code can be formed, eg: ENFP.
Why this is the case
Every person has four Jungian functions, an intuitive one, a sensing one, a thinking one and a feeling one. Each of these functions can either be introverted (internally focused) or extraverted (externally focused). Different people find each of these functions easier or harder to use. Thus, they can be, for a person, put into order from most natural for that person to least natural. The ordering of the functions and the orientation determines a person’s preferences for the four categories, and thus their type. For example, the ordering of an INTJ’s functions are introverted intuition, extraverted thinking, introverted feeling and extraverted sensing.
There are 16 possible types, divided into four Kiersey Temperaments. The Kiersey Temperaments are groups of types that share many characteristics, and are commonly called the guardians (Sensing Judgers), experiencers (Sensing Percievers), idealists (Intuitive Feelers) and conceptualizers (Intuitive Thinkers).
Guardians seek security, value stability and the following of social norms (they are easy to push around with peer group pressure), are past-oriented and possess logistical intelligence.
ESTJ: Supervisor, Guard, Pastor.
-Conscientious, dependable, realistic, practical, detail-oriented, confident, traditional.
ISTJ: Duty-filler, accountant, inspector.
-Methodical, meticulous, traditional, capable, logical, reasonable, organized.
ESFJ: Host(ess), Caretaker, Provider.
-Responsible, dependable, compassionate, warm, energetic, structured, helpful, tactical, thorough.
ISFJ: The Nurturer.
-Kind, harmonious, warm, generous, dependant, traditional.
Experiencers seek experiences, value fun, are present-oriented and possess tactical intelligence.
ESTP: Doer, Salesperson, promoter.
-Outgoing, excitable, straightforward, stylish, dramatic, practical, observant, fun-loving.
ISTP: The Mechanic, the explorer.
-Loyal, fair, optimistic, generous, trusting, receptive, curious, people of action.
ESFP: The performer, the entertainer.
-Sociable, observant, spontaneous, optimistic, popular, fun-loving, practical.
ISFP: The Artist, the composer.
-Creative, artistic, quiet, reserved, kind, gentle, sensitive, perceptive, serious, independent.
Idealists seek identity, value empathy, are future oriented and possess diplomatic intelligence.
ENFJ: Giver, Negotiator, teacher.
-Charming, warm, gracious, creative, fussy, altruistic, future-oriented.
ENFP: Motivator, Counselor, crusader.
-Warm, enthusiastic, idealistic, intense, charming, ingenious, sensitive.
INFJ: The protector.
-Gentle, caring, complex, very intuitive, stubborn, idealistic.
INFP: The idealist.
-meticulous, idealistic, thoughtful, considerate, flexible.
Conceptualizers seek knowledge, value efficiency, naturally break time into intervals and possess strategic intelligence.
ENTJ: The executive, the Field Marshall.
-Decisive, forceful, assertive, innovative, a long-range planner.
ENTP: Lawyer, Visionary, inventor.
-Creative, enthusiastic, clever, curious, sociable, a good conversationalist.
INTJ: Scientist, Strategist, mastermind.
-Reserved, formal, intelligent, proud, imaginative, insightful.
INTP: Absent-minded professor, Thinker, architect.
-Logical, intelligent, dreamy, shy, independent, original.
There are a number of ways to work out the type of another person (or yourself). One is to go through the categories and work out what they seem to show a preference for. Another is to first identify the temperament and fill in the blanks. A cool trick relates to feeling function orientation: People with extraverted feeling functions are more outwardly emotional than those with introverted feeling functions. Therefore, you can watch someone, and if they are the sort of person who is very physically expressive, a person who makes it fairly obvious what they’re feeling and a person who is more likely to hug or be affectionate towards others they are likely to have an extraverted feeling function. This means that their type must be either a FJ or a TP. If not, they have an introverted feeling function and are FP or a TJ.
So what does this mean?
Being able to identify yourself by a four letter code isn’t much use on its own, but knowing about this stuff can really explain a lot about the way people work for those who are interested and can provide other benefits, especially in making relating to other people easier.
Dealing with other types
Knowing someone’s type can make your life a lot easier if you want to deal with them, whether you are trying to work on something with them, seeking to get them to employ you, asking them on a date or simply trying to have a conversation with them. On a basic level, be able to identify the temperaments and know what motivates them. Remember, you may have trouble understanding why they desire and like the things they do, but the same goes for them with you. Also, remember that they are people and you do have things in common, and don’t take what they are motivated to seek too literally (I wouldn’t ask an NT on a date to a library or an SJ to a bank vault for example, even though those types do like knowledge and security respectively).
Another useful thing to do is to not put people in difficult positions. Give introverts a chance to think before you want them to make a decision and explain things clearly using examples to sensors for example. Knowing someone’s complete type and knowing a good deal about that type can prove very useful, and can make relating to that person fairly painless.
There is a good deal of material on which careers suit which types. Be sure to get a career that suits your type (typically, most people will, as they would find such a career good anyway). Find one that uses your abilities, feeds your motivations and doesn’t depend on you performing in an area you’re not good at.
A particular type will get on better with some types than with others. In general, we get on best with people that share our primary function but with the opposite orientation. For example, if you’re primary function is Extraverted Feeling, you will get on best with people whose primary function is Introverted Feeling. For good working relationships seek those who have fairly similar types to yours, you can benefit from a different angle but in general you want someone who will understand why do you things the way you do.
When we start to look at intimate relationships, the whole issue gets a whole lot more complicated (even after months of reading, observation and deep thinking I still don’t fully understand it myself). Unfortunately, the types we are most attracted to are not always the types we get on best with. People are often attracted to very different types, as we see in them qualities that we do not have and would like to have, and thus binding ourselves to them will almost act as a substitute for not having them ourselves. Of course, this is purely subconscious, in general, you won’t hear friends saying ‘I met the hottest guy/girl, and his/her primary function my inferior one but the same orientation and there is obvious dichotomy in our second and third preferences!’ (well, you will among my friends, but anyway…). In the end, I theorize (and this is only a theory, and not a scientific one either) that you are most attracted to types that share your P/J preference but are opposite in every other category. Why this is, I don’t know. However, as I said before, these are not the types you get on best with (for starters, intuitives and sensors have obvious difficulties getting on). However, everyone can agree that an Introvert/Extravert match is usually a good idea. In the end though, two well balanced people of any type can have a relationship.
You will find that he four temperaments each have their own parenting/teaching style: Guardians seek to make their children/pupils fit into society, Experiencers try to instill a sense of fun into them, Idealists try to teach them understanding and empathy and Conceptualizers try to make them more independent (an NT parent or teacher feels successful when he/she is no longer needed).
A child’s primary function is developed usually around 6, their secondary at 13, their tertiary around 30 and their inferior (which is sometimes never developed) usually shows itself around older age. Hence, it is usually possible to tell someone’s full type by 13. From 6-13, the primary function can be identified and thus the possible types are INJ, ISJ ETJ, EFJ, ITP, IFP, ENP and ESP. From 2-6, no functions can be identified and the types are IJ, IP, EJ and EP.
MBTI types of past and present Manwë posters
What type are you?
Are you a psychologist?
How do you know all this stuff then?
It interests me (a lot) and thus I read about it and practice it in real life.
Why haven’t you posted a link to the test?
I find the tests unreliable myself, for instance, if I was any more INTJ I would have the letters showing on my forehead, and yet several tests have returned me as ISFJ. Besides, it is better to understand how it works and learn to identify yourself and others based on signs and characteristics.
I have most of the characteristics of a certain type/temperament, but not all. Am I a new undiscovered type?
No, you are the type that most fits you.
Is there a link between this and astrology?
I doubt it myself, but if you are curious go here.
Where can I get more information?
I like http://www.personalitypage.com but http://www.typelogic.com is also good. There are a number of sites on this, and books, including David Kiersey’s Please Understand Me II, which I read and found interesting and useful.
This is so awesome; I will now be able to play people like flutes! Do often use this knowledge to take advantage of people?
No. Use your powers for good, not evil!